The Gospel Coalition

The heart of most religions is good advice, good techniques, good programs, good ideas, and good support systems. These drive us deeper into ourselves, to find our inner light, inner goodness, inner voice, or inner resources.

Nothing new can be found inside of us. There is no inner rescuer deep in my soul; I just hear echoes of my own voice telling me all sorts of crazy things to numb my sense of fear, anxiety, and boredom, the origins of which I cannot truly identify.

But the heart of Christianity is Good News. It comes not as a task for us to fulfill, a mission for us to accomplish, a game plan for us to follow with the help of life coaches, but as a report that someone else has already fulfilled, accomplished, followed, and achieved everything for us.

Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life


Brandon E

June 19, 2012 at 09:33 PM

Hi Darren,

For what it’s worth, I actually believe that I agree more with pastor Tullian’s gospel message (through Christ’s work we are already justified, forgiven, and liberated from trying to keep the law) than with those who hold that we are justified by grace through faith and then emphasize our efforts to keep the law. I read his blog more, because I agree more with his emphasis upon Christ and the gospel. I’m not demanding that he cover everything, but rather I feel that some of the common themes that come up in his posts or in the comments (e.g. reducing sanctification to simply remembering how much we need justification, portraying all imperatives as if they were all the law), even though the intention is good, tend to obscure or minimize other aspects of who Christ is, what He has done, and what we have in Him.

I find myself re-speaking the same thing because people don’t always get what you’re saying the first time (part of the reason why pastor Tullian re-speaks the same message in his blog posts), and then misrepresent or misunderstand what you’re saying.

For instance, I’m not talking about “an inner light, inner goodness and inner rescuer deep within your own soul” but about Jesus Christ our Lord who not only forgives but indwells the regenerated believers (John 14:20; Rom. 8:9-11; 2 Cor. 4:6-7; 13:5; Gal. 2:20; 4:19; Eph. 3:17; Col. 1:27), for which reason the apostle Paul things like, “I am able to do all things in Him who empowers me” (Phil. 4:13). Although I understand how you would get the impression, I also don’t believe that I’ve been emphasizing “Jesus is the way to holy living” (though the statement is true, just as “Jesus is the way to be freed from the law’s condemnation” is true, and we shouldn’t trivialize anything that Christ is to us): that would make our individual holiness the goal and Jesus only a means to our personal goal, and that’s not what I’m saying. Instead, I’ve been saying that Christ in His resurrection life indwells the believers to produce a Body that is one with Him and expresses Him. This is God’s goal, not our goal, but through His Spirit and His word He can gradually make His goal our goal (Eph. 4:11-16; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; Col. 1:24, 2:19; Matt. 28:18-20; Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:14).

If we see this, I believe we will gain a broader perspective that allows us to see the many commandments/imperatives in the New Testament in a Christ-centered way (focusing upon knowing and fellowshipping with Christ who is the life of the Body) rather than a law-centered, self-centered, or legalistic way. This is good news. This can help a vexed conscience who feels crushed by the legal demand of the law and yet does not wish to ignore or dismiss the fact that Christ and the apostles did in fact direct many commandments or imperatives to the believers concerning their daily life in Christ.

So I'm not writing at length as a means of "trying to prove that [I] find Tullian’s posts to be disagreeable." I believe the positive message I’m emphasizing is worthwhile and complements pastor Tullian's emphasis on Christ’s liberating us from law-keeping, even if there are some differences in perspective.


June 19, 2012 at 06:59 AM

This is curious to me... why does the "yeah... but..." crowd feel this obsessive need to write long essays to prove that they find Tullian's posts to be disagreeable. On every. single. post. Brothers, we get it: you disagree. Now don't you have better things to do with your time?

Anticipating your (far too long and tediously repetitive) answers, let me just say, no one can say everything in a blog post (as you seem to demand). Tullian has a specific, very pastoral purpose: to comfort the afflicted, burdened and vexed consciences. You may have found an inner light, inner goodness and inner rescuer deep within your own soul, but this one who has Christ and knows himself a sinner still, finds the words "your sins are forgiven" moving me to holiness far more than "Jesus is the way to holy living." True, though it may be in a sense, the latter sounds kinda like good advice vexing the conscience of someone not following it very well. It's the former that is good news.

Mitchell Hammonds

June 19, 2012 at 03:54 PM

I've thought the same thing Darren. I spend little time reading those I know are going to write in accordance with what I disagree with the majority of the time. I have folks that I do read with whom I disagree with in places (Michael Horton) but for the most part champion the Gospel through "Word and Sacrament" rather than some inward experience or emotional reflection.

[...] Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life  (HT: Tullian) Share this:FacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Posted by Mark Filed in Gospel [...]

Paul St Jean

June 17, 2012 at 08:15 AM

During my morning devotions I read in ("Forward Day by day" issued by an agency of the Episcopal Church). 2Cor 5:14-17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a NEW CREATION
Everything that Christ means and offers is summed up by Paul in these two words: NEW CREATION they are as radical and stunning as the first chap. of Genesis. When I meet someone I try to remember as I look at them that Christ brings redemption, not improvement. C.S. Lewis said that God became human to turn creatures into sons and daughters, not simply to produce better people of the old kind: it is like trying to teach a horse to jump better and better, but turning a horse into a winged creature.
It is not as if we need a little medicine. We are in no better shape than Lazarus was in his tomb. jesus did not roll away the stone to give him an antibiotic. Lazarus was dead. He got new creation, not improvement. He become a winged creature. Jesus said: "come forth!" and he walked to Jesus from DEATH TO LIFE
In The Book of Common Prayer the catechism states: What is the inward and spiritual grace in Baptism? A. The inward and spiritual grace in Baptism is union with Christ in his death and resurrection, birth into God's family the Church, forgiveness of sins, and new life in the Holy Spirit.

[...] The Gospel Is Good News, Not Good Advice “The heart of most religions is good advice, good techniques, good programs, good ideas, and good support systems. But the heart of Christianity is Good News.” – That’s good news! [...]

Brandon E

June 16, 2012 at 06:32 PM

John Dunn and jeremiah,
I appreciate your comments.

I do believe that Michael Horton, along with Kim Riddlebarger, often create a false dichotomy between a creedal Reformed emphasis upon “Christ outside of us” and what they label “gnosticism.” For instance, their Modern Reformation magazine (July/August 1995) contains the following portrayal: “The God and Christ outside of us (the Reformation emphasis) is replaced with God and the Christ within the individual's heart (the medieval and gnostic emphasis)." But doesn’t the Scripture say that Christ is both outside the believers and inside the believers? Can’t we have both? Why do we have to pick one or the other? In The Face of God: The Dangers and Delights of Spiritual Intimacy Horton portrays "classical Reformation Christianity" as the only safeguard against "gnostic" tendencies that, according to him, overemphasize God and Christ in the believer. He applies the term “gnostic” and “gnosticism” to all manners of persons and things that do not share the creedal Reformed emphasis upon an external gospel/Christ, and goes so far to say things like that who wish to simplify the architecture of their worship buildings are under the influence of “gnosticism” and modern marketing trends. I think he’s creating an artificial dichotomy as a means of persuading Christians to subscribe to creedal Reformed traditions. I believe that pitting the cross against the resurrection or an external Christ against Christ in the believers is one way to justify a commitment to a creed or denomination, but you can wind up emphasizing partial truths about Christ over and against all that He is in the completeness of His glory, person and work.

Although the Lord’s finished work is the basis for our assurance and security of salvation, I do believe that “inner witness” is a help to assurance. For instance, Romans 8:15-16 says, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery bringing you into fear again, but you have received a spirit of sonship in which we cry, Abba, Father! The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God.” This doesn’t mean that we should “look within” for some hermetic, esoteric experience beyond words, but, like John Dunn says, the life-giving Spirit's indwelling our spirit does affect our whole being, the mind, soul, will, affections, desires, and ultimately our bodies (cf. Rom. 8:5-13).

So brother Mitchell, if you tried to proclaim aloud and mean it “I am definitely NOT a child of God! I am NOT a child of God! Listen, I am NOT a child of God” you could hardly do it. It would pain you and wouldn’t ring true; something in your heart would protest. Why? Because you are a child of God!

Brandon E

June 16, 2012 at 06:24 AM

Steve, I listened to the whole 25 minutes of the audio.

I don't think everyone can be fairly and accurately categorized as either a "theologian of cross" or a "theologian of glory."

For one, I'm talking about Christ living in us in resurrection and us living and bearing fruit in His life (John 15:4-5), not about our own natural life (implying that our natural, independent life is terminated by the cross, buried and set aside). I'm talking about pursuing Christ and the knowledge of Him by which we grow and bear fruit for the sake of His Body (Phil. 3:7-16; Col. 1:10; 2 Pet. 3:18; Eph. 4:11-16) even as spoken of in Scripture, not of seeking sanctification and results for our own self-sufficiency or personal agendas. I'm talking about "Christ as holiness in us," not the "I have no holiness in me" of the "theology of the cross" or the "Look at my holiness" of the "theology of glory."

I don't believe that there's any God-given formula that says that resurrection life can only come about by speaking about the cross or how sinful we are first (especially if we're speaking to believers who are clear that they can never earn justification through works). The cross implies resurrection and resurrection implies the cross; the two go hand-in-hand.

According to historical sequence, Christ was surely crucified before He was resurrected, and hence we might say that we are co-crucified with Him before we were co-resurrected with Him. But which actually comes first, death or life?

Jesus Christ was the life and had life in Himself even before He went to the cross (John 1:4; 11:25; 14:6). Since He lived by the Father (John 6:57), worked by the Spirit (Heb. 9:14) and was life and had life in Himself, we might say that life is what empowered Him to live a perfect human life and go to the cross in the first place.

In a similar principle, the regenerated believers already have life in them, and this life is nothing less than Christ Himself (1 John 5:12). So which comes first with us, death or life? On the one hand, there are many verses that speak of us dying and then living with Him, according to the historical sequence of His death and resurrection. On the other hand, there are verses like Romans 8:13, in which Paul says "if by the Spirit you put to death the practices of the body, you will live." The live-giving Spirit (2 Cor. 3:6; John 6:63; 1 Cor. 15:45) is what empowers us to put to death our natural life, and then this death releases more life. And that life--that power of His resurrection--empowers us further to live a crucified and resurrected life in Him (Phil. 3:10, 1:19-21). Here we see an ongoing cycle of life bringing about death and death releasing life, a chicken-or-the-egg-style paradox.

Hence, I believe that the two, His death and His life, operate together in the Spirit. Both the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus are in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and the Spirit operates through means of His word to supply us with life through faith and put to death the things of our old, independent life.

And this is the understanding I bring to the imperatives given by Christ and the apostles. I don't see them as the Law, intended to only kill and condemn us or else teach us civil morality common even among pagans. Rather, such imperatives in the Spirit supply us with life and remind us that Christ is our life and hence we can life by Him and walk by the Spirit rather than our independent, natural life that has been judged, crucified and buried.


June 16, 2012 at 05:03 PM

I like Horton but have only read two books by him "putting Grace back into Amazing" I read twice & his book about the Lordship Gospel, cant remember the name, but hear him on "White Horse Inn". Myself coming out of a Pentecostal Holiness denomination, "The Church of God" he addresses the incredible psycho legalistic bondage that much of their doctrines teach, and to this day I struggle with coming out from under these teachings emotionally. But I would say that much of the "neo-Calvinists/Neo-Reformists" are engendering similar type teachings with their own calls to "Holiness-Obedience-true discipleship-mortification of sin-fruitfulness, imperatives Etc." these teachings to I need to be saved from, to me it is "LAW" a command to be to do as not justification by works but works as proof of true salvation of which, they teach, without you are NOT saved and are deceived. after all Jesus said "if you love me you'll keep my commandments" to which I respond Lord what if I don't love you enough to keep your commandments " I believe I am saved anyway and that's the Gospel. In my opinion there are 3 teacher/preacher/pastors that get it right Steve Brown, Rod Rosenbladt & Paul Zahl read their books get their sermons they saved my faith! Thanx Mike

John Dunn

June 16, 2012 at 04:43 PM


I would agree. The Christian life is not about "feeling" something or looking within to find proofs of this or that after the manner of the flesh, as if it were all about us and some kind of esoteric inner-light or mystical experience.

Rather, the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ involves the wholesale renewal of the entire man: the mind, soul, will, affections, desires, and at the last Day, the body. The Spirit's indwelling presence manifests itself in "inward" and "outward" displays of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, faith, humility, and self-control. The Spirit makes us spiritually alive, renews our minds, teaches us about Christ, and re-orients our entire perspective around Christ, so that we become genuinely renewed after His glorious image (2 Cor 17-18).

So Christian "experientialism" is ultimately about experiencing the new life of the risen Christ within us. In every sense it is felt, it is known, it is perceived, it is believed, it is lived out . . . beacause it is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17).


June 16, 2012 at 04:05 PM

One of the 'proofs' that we know that we are of God is the Holy Spirit within us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.- 1 John 4:13
Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
-1John 3:24
this is not the only evidence but if this is lacking it should be as alerting to us as if we didn't love the brethren, or love God.

It is very possible and happens that the death of Christ for the believer is championed at the expense of the life of Christ in the believer. Who dare pit the cross against the resurrection? We is man to separate men into factions of the cross and that of glory. Who are we to separate friends?

Mitchell Hammonds

June 16, 2012 at 03:48 PM

"Feeling" the presence of the in dwelling Holy Spirit is a Biblical account for very few. However, the indwelling Holy Spirit it is a Biblical fact for every believer... "Blessed are those who have never seen and yet believe." I don't think Christ's reference in the passage is strictly tied to "seeing" but also to other "tangible proofs" we tend to seek after. The Gospel is external to us... It is not something we go inward to find.... It is a truth grasped with the mind to believed and trusted.
To direct someone inward to seek proof of their salvation is the equivalent of telling believers on 'Good Friday' to "see their sin" on Christ as he hung on the cross. It isn't something to be seen but believed and the resurrection was their proof that this was real... Not their inner witness... Feelings... Sincerity... Or whatever you may want to call it.

John Dunn

June 16, 2012 at 02:50 PM

Nothing new can be found inside of us. There is no inner rescuer deep in my soul.

Horton is known for championing an external Gospel/Christ to the minimization of the Christ-in-us realities of the New Covenant. A few years back he was promoting a book called Against The Protestant Gnostics, and claiming that the idea of the Christ-in-us experience is not "orthodox" but an encroachment of individualistic Gnosticism within Christianity.

His emphasis was on championing a confessionally "orthodox" Gospel which is external to the participant and involves mediating Christ's presence and grace only through the ordainded external means of Word and Sacrament, and only within the strict confines of the gathered ekklesia.

Horton's high view of sacramental mediation, while in keeping with the "orthodox" Reformed ministry of the Covenant of Grace, does not comport with the Apostolic ministry of the New Covenant. The New Covenant ministry is the administration of the Holy Spirit:

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a New Covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor 3:5-6)

The New Covenant ministry of the Spirit involves the internal inscription and indwelling and seal of the Spirit of Christ upon our hearts (2 Cor 1:22, 2 Cor 3:3, 1 Cor 3:16).

The Spirit's indwelling presence in us fulfills and satisfies the righteous requirement of the Law (Rom 8:4) in us, so that we now have a real, living and abiding Presence of holiness in our hearts. By virtue of the Holy Spirit's residence in us, we are holy, we are sanctified, we are his holy Temple, we are saints!

Ultimately, this New Covenant minsitry is a corporate experience. But it in no way minimizes the radical "newness" that happens in an individual believer's life when he/she is regenerated by the Spirit from above.

Steve Martin

June 16, 2012 at 01:05 AM

Calling all of you theologians of Glory!

This one is for you. (and for me, too):

You might enjoy at least some of it. It's not too long.


June 15, 2012 at 10:47 PM

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Col. 3:1-4

To them (His saints) God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Col. 1:27

Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

June 15, 2012 at 09:54 PM

Please, stop it! (Heb 4:7, Zech 4:6)


John Dunn

June 15, 2012 at 09:18 PM

Brandon E, you are a modern day Pharisee. How dare you suggests that Christ-our-Righteousness actually lives and indwells the saints, powerfully causing them to walk in his Light and obey His Word through the life-giving Spirit of Christ in them, producing His heavenly fruit. Tsk-tsk you are much too Scriptural. You stray too far from the sacrosanct confessions and traditions. Repent from your New Covenant tendencies.


Love you brother! You are Light in the Lord. Appreciate your witness.


June 15, 2012 at 09:03 AM

I would agree, if Christ is not within you then, there is nothing good in you. I just think that Jesus makes dead people alive and lives in them, and that truth changes what Horton says.


June 15, 2012 at 08:40 AM

"a report that someone else has already fulfilled, accomplished, followed, and achieved everything for us."
Wow! Just Wow!
Thanks so much...I will be sleeping like a baby tonight (the quiet, sleep-through-the-night kind of baby, not the regular kind).

Todd Van Voorst

June 15, 2012 at 08:39 AM

I listened and saved a copy of the "Good News vs. Good Advice" episode of the White Horse Inn.

What a distinction, what a glorious hope! Christ really has accomplished everything for me and by faith imputes it to my account as though it were mine.

God treats me as though I had done and not done all that Jesus did and did not righteously do.

I do not want my own righteousness. It is muted and painfully short of the crisp white offered by faith in God's grace of Christ's righteousness cloaking me.

Brandon E

June 15, 2012 at 08:18 PM

Steve M.,
If we come to Jesus and He gives the church a great commission (Matt. 28:8-10), does that make our Lord Jesus a Pharisee? Is He distracting us from His finished work?

If the Lord Jesus “gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all lawlessness and purify to Himself a particular people as His unique possession, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14) does that mean He died to produce a particular group of little Pharisees who are zealous of good works?

The apostle Paul said that although he was not already perfect and had not yet attained, he would pursue and press on to the Christ before, pursuing toward the goal for the prize for which God called him upward (Phil. 3:7-16). Although he was already justified, he said that there was more Christ for Him to pursue and gain. Here is what we might call a Christ-centered pursuit of progress. Does that make him a Pharisee, simply because he suggests there is something more of Christ for him to pursue?

The apostle Peter says that through God’s divine power and exceedingly great promises we have been granted all things related to life and godliness, through which we become “partakers of the divine nature,” and therefore we should “add all diligence” and “be the more diligent” to add to our faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly love and love, for “….these things, existing in you and abounding, constitute you neither idle nor unfruitful unto the full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:3-11). Does that make him a Pharisee? Why not?

If you can’t answer such questions, then what ground do you have to accuse others of being Pharisees? Did the Lord Jesus Christ die on the cross so that you could be “free” to ungraciously accuse others of being Pharisees?

I'm not saying that we need to successfully preach the gospel to a million people in order to prove our Christian dedication. I'm asking us to deal with what the Lord Jesus and His apostles actually said. The Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles issued many commands or imperatives; they take up much of the text, and are often spoken on the basis of what Christ has done (since Christ has done this, therefore we can walk in this way), not on trying to fulfill a legal demand of the law. Would accuse them of distracting us from His finished work? Maybe you would, since have repeatedly purported in your comments that to point out these Scripture passages (what they often said) is to use the Scriptures (what they often said) against Christ. But if not, why are you so eager to accuse others of being Pharisees? Who appointed you to make that judgment call? Is this what true Lutheranism or being grace-centered does to people?

I believe we should proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ as the gospel (Eph. 3:8)--that is the content of our message, not what we do. But since the unsearchable riches of Christ are poured out upon His Body--not only the gift of justification but the gift of His indwelling, life-giving Spirit that gives us a new life, new heart and a new spirit--the message of His finished work is not that that any desire or pursuit of growth/fruit/progress/sanctification (Heb. 12:14)/"working out your own salvation" (Phil. 2:12-13)/good works etc. is self-righteous, self-focused, Romish legalism, and that if anyone disagrees they’re a Pharisee.

Steve Martin

June 15, 2012 at 06:56 PM

I knew it wouldn't take long.

Brandon E

June 15, 2012 at 06:52 PM

What do you want to do? You are free, in Christ!

Nothing, for our justification! But the Lord Jesus Himself truly said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, He who believes into Me, the works which I do he shall do also; and greater than these he shall do because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). Such works are not for our justification, but for the building up of the Body of Christ as the enlarged expression of Christ’s life.

The purpose of goal of Christ’s finished work is not just to free us from the law’s requirement but to build His church (Matt. 16:18)--composed of many regenerated sons of God who are being conformed to His image (Rom. 8:14-17, 28-30)--as His kingdom, Body, dwelling place, and bride, the fullness of His expression on the earth (Eph. 4:11-16; 2:20-21; 1:19-23; 1 Pet. 2:1-12). The gospel is not simply centered around our needs--our need to be freed from the law’s condemnation and requirement and to feel assured of His love--but upon God’s desire and goal to gain a Body for Christ (Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:14) that expresses Him to the rest of creation. Christ wants to do certain things, and because He is in us working in us, we desire certain things in oneness with Him.

Hence, the gospel frees us not only from the law’s legal requirement in order that we might live in that freedom, but also imparts the Spirit of Jesus into us in order to make us one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 15:45b, 6:17) so that we are free to live by His life (John 6:57; 15:4-5; Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:19-21; Eph. 4:17-24), and live and serve in newness of life apart from the law's demands (Rom. 6:4; 7:6) for the building up of His Body. This is good news, not good advice!

And He Himself gave some as apostles and some as prophets and some as evangelists and some as shepherds and teachers,
For the perfecting of the saints unto the work of the ministry, unto the building up of the Body of Christ,
Until we all arrive at the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, at a full-grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
That we may be no longer little children tossed by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching in the sleight of men, in craftiness with a view to a system of error,
But holding to truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, Christ,
Out from whom all the Body, being joined together and being knit together through every joint of the rich supply and through the operation in the measure of each one part, causes the growth of the Body unto the building up of itself in love.
-Ephesians 4:11-16

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Go therefore and disciple all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you all the days until the consummation of the age.
-Matthew 28:18-20

Steve Martin

June 15, 2012 at 05:14 PM

Yes, Jesus lives in us.

What then?

What do you want to do? You are free, in Christ!


(the 'yeah but' crowd will never let it rest (they won't let you rest). They ought concentrate on themselves instead of raining on everyone else's picnic. But they won't. They are modern day Pharisees. And they are EVERYWHERE!

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